TTP confirms senior leader Khurasani’s death, calls it ‘huge loss’

The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Wednesday confirmed the death of senior leader Mufti Khalid Balti alias Mohammad Khurasani, whose killing in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan was revealed this week.

The current TTP spokesman, who also shares the Mohammad Khurasani alias with Balti, confirmed his death in a statement but shared no details of how he had died.

A senior security official from Pakistan had confirmed Balti’s killing on Monday, saying he was the current TTP spokesman. However, TTP had said Balti was not holding any position.

A militant source told Dawn.com that Balti’s funeral was held in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province on Tuesday and he was buried there.null

Meanwhile, the current TTP spokesman said in a statement that the group “lost a religious scholar and expert of political affairs”, deeming it a a “huge loss”.

He said Balti joined the TTP when he migrated in 2011 and had remained active since. He was arrested in 2015 and remained imprisoned until last year before being killed on Jan 9 (Sunday).

Earlier, the Pakistani security official said Balti, aged around 50, was involved in several attacks on the people and security forces of Pakistan.

Balti had been visiting Kabul frequently since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August last year, the official added.null

He had been making efforts for uniting various TTP factions and planning terrorist attacks with TTP chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, the official said, adding that Balti had recently hinted at carrying out terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.

Despite confirmations from Pakistan and TTP itself, a spokesman for the Afghan government had denied the killing of the senior TTP member and said that no such incident had taken place.

“I do not confirm these reports. They are not true. No such incident has taken place on this (Afghan) side,” Afghan government spokesperson Bilal Karimi had told Dawn.com when asked for a comment on Balti’s killing.

Hailing from Gilgit-Baltistan, Balti had been an operational commander of the TTP for the past several years.

In 2007, he joined the banned Tehreek Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi in Swat and established close ties with Mullah Fazlullah, a former head of the TTP. He had cordial and close relations with TTP members of all tiers, officials said, adding that Balti played a vital role in the TTP’s propaganda campaign.

Officials said Balti ran a terrorist hideout in Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s Miramshah town and had fled to Afghanistan in the aftermath of operation Zarb-i-Azab. In 2014, he served as the head of the TTP media committee.

He was arrested in 2015 in Nangarhar by Afghan forces and remained at Bagram and Pul-i-Charkhi jails, according to a former TTP member, who was aware of Balti’s activities.

Balti, and other TTP militants, were freed last year in August when the Afghan Taliban resorted to releasing prisoners during their military offensive.

He was also the person who had called the media in Pakistan and Afghanistan to claim the 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.